All of mtraven2's Comments + Replies

This has approximately zero relationship to the way political campaigns (or anything else) happens in the real world, where campaign managers are part of an ideologically biased social network. In fact, their job is essentially to strengthen the connections between voters and a candidate, by whatever means necessary, mostly through propaganda (aka advertising) that combines emotional appeal with the occasional smidgen of rational argument.

Maybe it would be a better world if people didn't work this way, but they do, and I don't see any prospect of changing... (read more)

Rationality has plenty to say about whether abortion is morally permissible. Are fetuses sentient, for example? Do they feel pain? What would happen socially, economically, if we outlawed abortion? Who would benefit? Who would be harmed? How much? If you're a strict utilitarian, moral problems reduce to factual problems. But even if you're not, facts often have a great deal to say about morality. This is especially true in issues like economics and foreign policy, where the goals are largely undisputed and it's the facts and methods that are in question. I challenge you to find an American politician who says he wants to increase poverty or undermine American national security. "We need 10% of Americans to starve! And by the way, I hope China invades!" (I guess I should hedge my bets and say that such bizarre people may exist---after all, Creationists do---but they aren't likely to get a lot of votes from any party.) Also, rationality can assess the arguments used for and against political positions. If one side is using a lot of hard data and the other one is making a lot of logical fallacies... that's should give you a pretty good idea of which side to be on. (It's no guarantee, but what is?)

HA, you may have your personal single life goal worked out but I'm not sure why the rest of us should be interested. My goal is emphatically not persisting my subjective reality as far forward in time as possible, let alone yours. I have other people I care about, I probably care more about the quality of my life than quantity, I do have memes that I place a great deal of value on. Most other normal people feel the same way, I suspect.,

Robin, what evidence has been brought forth to support the proposition that torture may be a good idea? I have cited boo... (read more)

Whoops, messed up a link there, was supposed to read: comes from an old union song. The link is to my own blog where I am basically taking the opposing view, that forced-side-choosing is bad, in many circumstances. But I did say I was contrarian...

that reads as deliberate bait to me. Presenting 2 options as if they're the only options seems to be preying on a dualistic/binary bias common in most people, and that I think stems from our primate roots.

Everything we do stems from our primate roots. I don't know you well enough to deliberately bait you, but using that expression (which comes from ) is meant to signify that at some point, when dealing with politics, you have to stop spouting hot air, choose which side of an issue you are on, and fight for it. That attitude seems somewhat antithetical to ... (read more)

HA, that's exactly the sort of argument I'm talking about. It is too easy to convince oneself by some bit of reasoning that doing an evil act is OK -- maybe it reduces some other evil, maybe it gets rid of the Jews who you have convinced yourself are a source of evil. Maybe you can convince yourself that implementing some torture will reduce the total amount of suffering in the world. I would be extremely dubious. Reasoning from first principles about practical affairs is extremely unreliable, and has to be augmented with heuristics, intuition, and gut ... (read more)

Clear thinking is a necessary but insufficient condition for avoiding evil. Eichmann is a paradigmatic case of local rationality in the pursuit of evil ends. And right here on this blog, we see proudly rational thinkers advocating what most normal people would think of as evil, namely the employment of torture as a judicial punishment. I've argued against them, but perhaps my arguments aren't any good. Maybe it is more rational to apply shocks to the genitals or waterboarding than to lock someone in a cell. Maybe we don't have anything better than instinctive revulsion to keep us from evil. In which case, we should not be overcoming our biases, but listening closely to them.

Ah, it's good to see that even in OB's early days there were people who saw the ugliness of naive utilitarianism and "rationality"-worship, who plainly spoke out against this blight. Just look at how in-your-face this crap used to be. It's subtler now, of course... I'd say that the community has progressed in ethics and spirit, yet this proportion of people that I fear has not been wasting time either, probably.

So let us be absolutely clear that where there is human evil in the world, where there is cruelty and torture and deliberate murder, there are biases enshrouding it. Where people of clear sight oppose these biases, the concealed evil fights back.
Funny, I seem to recall some leading anti-bias advocates promoting torture right here on this blog. Apparently one can be comfortably against bias and for torture without losing a moment's sleep about it.

To be fair, imprisonment-as-punishment does indeed lead towards advocating torture, if you're avoiding hypocrisy and keeping an open mind. I hadn't noticed this before, because it's too abhorrent to have occurred to me as a strategy. However, I'd wager that imprisonment-as-punishment is the flaw in the argument here. Imprisonment-to-protect-others and imprisonment-as-rehabilitation are far more effective, in my opinion (I haven't actually looked into this much; it just sounds sensible to me), and I think a lot of people primarily advocate imprisonment-as-punishment because they have a desire for revenge.
The artist is not the Art. Many an artist will fail, but the Art does not.